Networking is important, especially to emerging leaders (EL). Climbing the career ladder, creating new partnerships, and even social events can all be enhanced by who you know.
A combination of knowing who to connect with and how to approach them will transform an ordinary contacts list into the much-revered Golden Rolodex.
I’ve just made a transition in my approach to networking that seems to be part of the “emerging” process: instead of a laser focus on prospective employers, I’m fostering career-long relationships with my peers.
In February of this year, Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles (EAL/LA) elected its first officers and I was honored to become the Executive Chair. One of my goals for this two-year position is to make connections with other EL networks: to compare programming, growth strategies, and membership models; to initiate cross-city collaborations; and to help with the transition of moving to a new city for the numerous artists and professionals that move to and from Los Angeles.
Americans for the Arts’ Emerging Leaders Council held a national conference call for emerging leaders on May 17. After nearly a year of introspective planning in EAL/LA, I was very excited to look out into the vast landscape of emerging leader groups across the country. The call lasted an hour and (in my opinion) accomplished its purpose: to initiate a national dialogue about topics important to emerging leaders. We discussed mentorship programs, leadership structures, and what each chapter has been up to lately. The call was a great way to be introduced to other ELs and their programs and I look forward to delving deeper in future conversations. The call ended with, “See you in San Diego!”
Convention in San Diego
As many of you know, the Americans for the Arts 2011 Convention was held June 16-18 in San Diego. I did, in fact, meet a number of people there from the national conference call and the conference, in general, was wonderfully saturated with emerging leader networking.
As I walked through the crowd to find a seat for the opening keynote lunch, I exchanged excited, silent waves with familiar faces. That night, a few of us from L.A. crashed one of the EL mixers (They were all marked “FULL” on the signup sheets, but most Angelenos will gladly ignore conventional wisdom).
Over a lovely walk through the Gaslamp district, I got to chat with a couple of Emerging Leaders of New York Arts members that I had recently met over email. At our destination, Neighborhood, we enjoyed local microbrews and talked about our home cities, celebrities, and other non-shop talk. The EL event at the Alexander Salazar gallery Friday evening was just as pleasant. It was wonderful to see so many ELs gathered in one place.
Also during the convention, eight of us from California EL groups met with staff from the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI), The James Irvine Foundation, and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation as part of the NextGen Arts Leadership Initiative. This was the third of these statewide convenings, and my first time in attendance.
It was energizing, refreshing, and affirming to have a two-way dialogue with these funding organizations and to know that they were sincerely interested in what we had to say. They have gone above and beyond typical granting by meeting with us on a quarterly basis to engage in conversation about our progress and challenges. I was also thrilled to hear detailed accounts of the other groups’ activities and goals for the future.
The convention and CCI activities left me inspired and assured that Emerging Leaders are a serious, positive force in the arts world. From one-on-one conversations with talented ELs, to larger collaborations, I’m proof-positive that the succession crisis is no crisis at all.
I <3 EAL/LA Week
Upon returning from the convention I geared up for EAL/LA’s full schedule, lovingly termed “I Heart EAL/LA Week.” Some of the week’s events were sequels to convention and NextGen events: this is where I got to see my colleagues get down to business and transform ideas into action. Some events were totally unrelated—like our happy hour mixer at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that featured lots of new faces. After the week ended, I was exhausted and elated.
Thank you, fellow emerging leaders, for being awesome. Thank you for shaking my hand, giving me your elevator speech, and listening to mine.
Let’s network again soon.